New Delhi, Oct 10: Cyclone Hudhud is expected to intensify in the next few hours, bringing heavy rain and gusting winds of about 100-110 km/hour as it inches closer to the coast of Andhra Pradesh and Odisha.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh discussed preparedness this morning with the chief ministers of the two states and also that of Telangana and offered the Centre's help. Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik has asked for additional satellite phones as the telecom network is expected to be affected when the cyclone hits the coast.
The Centre, which is monitoring the situation closely, is laying greater emphasis on maintaining telecom links as a learning from the recent Jammu and Kashmir floods, when communication was affected for days.
Cyclone Hudhud, named for a bird, is expected to hit coast or make landfall around the port city of Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh on Sunday morning, packing wind speeds of up to 140 kph (87 mph).
Today it is expected to strengthen from a Category 1 severe cyclonic storm to a very severe cyclonic storm. On a scale that rises to Category 5, it is predicted to strengthen to Category 4 before landfall.
The Met department warns that heavy rainfall and strong winds are likely to disrupt electricity and telecommunications services, and road and rail traffic. It has warned of flooding and storm surges up to two metres (6.5 feet) in low-lying areas.
Mr Patnaik had yesterday also requested Defence Minister Arun Jaitley to ask the Air Force to be ready to help with rescue and relief operations, if needed. The Odisha government said it will decide by this evening whether evacuation of people who live along the coast is required.
"We are assessing the probable habitations which are to be evacuated," said Visakhapatnam District Head N. Yuvaraj. "We have also warned fishermen not to venture out to sea, and are sending communication to those already out there to return to the coast," he added.
Thousands of members of the National and State Disaster Response Forces, and the fire services, are being sent to coastal areas to prepare for search and rescue operations and assist with evacuations.
A year ago, a severe cyclone called Phailin battered the same region, also on October 12. Strong disaster preparedness, including the evacuation of nearly one million people to cyclone shelters, helped save many lives.